From the June 26, 1937, issue


Guereza monkeys, which live in the forests of Ethiopia, supply most of the fashionable long monkey fur that trims women’s garments. In this group, recently mounted for the Field Museum of Natural History, the way that the animals themselves wear their fur as a natural cape is clearly shown.


A Nobel Prize winner in physics and a Chinese scientist joined forces, through the printed word, this week to tell the world of a new hypothesis on the origin of the cosmic ray. The men are Prof. Arthur H. Compton, University of Chicago, and Dr. P.Y. Chou, physicist at National Tsing Hua University, Peiping [Beijing], China. Their medium of expression was the highly technical journal of the American Physical Society, The Physical Review.

In the present stage of cosmic-ray knowledge, say Prof. Compton and Dr. Chou, there is no known act of nature—even the annihilation of the atomic nucleus—which can provide sufficient energy to fit the observed energies of some of the cosmic rays.

The only possibility, they feel, is the primeval explosion that sent the worlds and galaxies literally rocking and reeling into space.

Every kind of particle and the packets of energy known as photons would be the debris of such a staggering catastrophe, they admit. To account for the known preponderance of electrically charged particles, they suggest that the noncharged photons and neutrons have been lost in space because they could penetrate the magnetic field of stars and galaxies. But these same magnetic fields might trap the charged particles and so produce the observed particle component of the cosmic rays.

The scientists acknowledge the expanding-universe theory of Abbé LeMaitre, the Belgian scientist-priest, as the inspiration for this newest cosmic-ray-origin hypothesis. The Compton-Chou report is the first one in considerable time which has tackled the origin of the cosmic ray. For some years scientists have been content to study and obtain more and more experimental data, leaving the fitting together of the pieces to a later time.

Discussing the high energy of cosmic rays and their apparent origin somewhere out in space, the scientists said, “If the cosmic rays come from beyond the Milky Way, at a really typical place in intergalactic space, the density of cosmic-ray energy would be of the order of 100 times as great as that of starlight. It is thus apparent that either the source of the rays must be a radiator which is very powerful compared with stars as a source of light, or the cosmic rays once emitted must be retained by the metagalactic system instead of being lost as is starlight.

“Although nuclear processes occurring in interstellar space might result in an adequate total energy,” they add, “it appears that such processes are inadequate to account for the great energies of the individual cosmic-ray particles.”

Concerning the trapping of the electrical particles they ask, “Is it possible that electrically charged rays emitted by the initial explosion may be deflected by stellar or galactic fields just as a cosmic-ray electron is deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field? If so, those particles which would be most probably retained by the metagalactic system would be those with the highest ratio of charge to mass in order, electrons, protons, etc., whereas all neutral rays might be forever lost.”

Because, on the hypothesis, the cosmic rays would spend much of their lifetime in intergalactic space they should suffer the “red shift” decay of energy in the same way that light does. “If this is true,” conclude the scientists, “the energies of the cosmic rays now striking the Earth must be much less than those of the rays in the early history of the Earth.”


An oxygen face tent for airplane pilots, worn at high altitudes, will make flying much safer for the public, Dr. Alvan L. Barach, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, stated in a report to the American Medical Association.

Pilot error is considered a primary cause of 16 out of 27 recent airplane accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

That oxygen want is a frequent factor in pilot error is the opinion expressed by Dr. Barach. (Journal, American Medical Association, May 28).

He recommends that commercial airplane companies adopt compulsory oxygen inhalation for pilots navigating at from 10,000 to 12,000 feet or over.

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